Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wow! How The Heck Did This Happen?

I don't know how this happened, but I'd sure like to know so I can keep on doing it! I've already looked, and I'm not linked on Instapundit....

Update, 2/1/08: The final count for yesterday was 2,365 hits. It'll be a very long time before I reach that amount again, if ever.

Another "Bill Clinton to Troofer" Quote

Watch the video. Bill doesn't tolerate these nutjobs. I've posted before about how he addresses this issue, and while he isn't as "on" this time, he gets the point across:

"We look like idiots, folks, denying that the people who murdered our fellow citizens did it, when they are continuing to murder people all around the world. So we heard from you, you go away."

I didn't vote for him and didn't like him as President, but he's 100% right on this issue.

Global Warming Advocates Are Truly Anti-Western

I keep telling you that while some members of the Church of Global Warming may be sincere in their beliefs (reader/commenter Cameron among them), the High Priests of the Church have hidden, sinister motives.

And I keep telling you what those motives are: ruin the "decadent" West, and create a new ruling elite (with themselves at the top, of course).

Apparently, Bill Clinton agrees with me.

Former President Bill Clinton was in Denver, Colorado, stumping for his wife yesterday.

In a long, and interesting speech, he characterized what the U.S. and other industrialized nations need to do to combat global warming this way: "We just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions 'cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren."

Slow down our economy. Some people just don't approve of prosperity for the masses (only for themselves, of course).

Update, 2/11/08: Here's another interesting link with an author who agrees with me:

I've always suspected that some environmentalists would only be happy when they had returned humanity to the Dark Ages, but I'd never expected this....
Go see for yourself what "this" is =)

Even Flaming Leftie Garrison Keillor Supports NCLB

From Joanne (see blogroll), who links from Salon:

In a fiery Salon column, Garrison Keillor tells Democrats to stop bashing No Child Left Behind and Reading First. Teaching kids to read well is a lot more important than Bush bashing.

“Nice, caring, sharing people” — not “Republican oligarchs in top hats and spats” — are running the schools, Keillor writes. The failure to teach low-income students to read competently is their failure.


Hear hear, amen, right on.

City of Berkeley to Marines: Screw You

This story was first published in the Contra Costa times (free registration) so I link here, with no registration required.

Berkeley council tells Marines to leave
Hey-hey, ho-ho, the Marines in Berkeley have got to go.

That's the message from the Berkeley City Council, which voted 8-1 Tuesday night to tell the Marines that its Shattuck Avenue recruiting station "is not welcome in the city, and if recruiters choose to stay, they do so as uninvited and unwelcome intruders."

In addition, the council voted to explore enforcing its law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation against the Marines, and officially encouraged the women's peace group Code Pink to impede the work of the Marines in the city by protesting in front of the station.

In a separate council item, the council voted 8-1 to give Code Pink a designated parking space in front of the recruiting station once a week for six months and a free sound permit for protesting once a week from noon to 4 p.m.

Councilman Gordon Wozniak voted no on both items.

The Marines have been in Berkeley for a little more than a year, having moved from Alameda in December of 2006. For about the past four months, Code Pink has been protesting in front of the station.


I hope, hope, that none of my leftie readers condones this kind of behavior. It would be nice if no lefties anywhere condoned this. I can't decide if I'm more sad or sickened.

In response, I'm going to do something positive. I've already written to the officer-in-charge of that recruiting office, telling him/her that I'd like to bring cookies and hot chocolate to his/her Marines on Monday, February 18th (no school that day). I have no intention of engaging in anything negative at all with Code Pink or their ilk; rather, I want to show nothing but kindness, goodness, and support for the Marines.

Who's with me?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Not A Teacher This Time...

...but a principal.

SAN ANTONIO — An elementary school principal has been charged with molesting a 13-year-old student, and police said they're investigating the possibility that there could be other victims...

The affidavit said police confiscated images of the alleged victim, two compact discs that "depicted adult men having sex with adolescent male children" and handwritten notes from children that were "inappropriate and sexual in nature."

Police also seized pictures of other unidentified children.

"In these cases, historically, we are never done with one victim," Police Sgt. Gabe Trevino said. "Odds are good there may be more victims"...

The South San Antonio Independent School District said Alcoser (the principal) was placed on administrative leave from his position at Carrillo Elementary School pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.


I wonder if it's paid administrative leave. And if he's found guilty, would he have to pay the money back?

Race Preferences in Universities

Asians, not white, gain when affirmative action admissions policies are ended.

Why is it so hard for some to believe that those of us who oppose race preferences do not necessarily believe that way out of (pro-white) racist beliefs?

And why are these the same people who, after learning that it's Asians who are harmed the most by affirmative action admissions programs, then try to tell whites that we shouldn't care about colorblind admissions standards because they would only help those darned Asians (not whites) anyway?

Which group really sounds racist here?

And with some further keen insight, John at Discriminations adds this:

Since the two candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination agree that neither of them should be supported or opposed because of their race or sex, how can either of them or their party continue to support the state distributing benefits and burdens on the basis of race? If presidents shouldn’t be selected or rejected on the basis of race or sex, why should college freshmen? Why is the “without regard” treatment Hillary and Obama seek for themselves not good enough for everybody else?

Some of us oppose affirmative action out of fairness and/or other high-minded principles.

Driving Is Like Taking A Poop?

I teach many sophomores and juniors, and I can't tell you how many times over the years students have anxiously approached me to let me know they've gotten their drivers licenses. Each time I'm sure I get one new gray hair.

So all of you new drivers, and even some of you longer-term drivers, read the Top Four Tips For Driving Like A Pro. As for the title of my post, well, read that article.

Punishment Fits The Crime?

What do you think the appropriate punishment should be for making out on the school bus? A couple days of bus suspension? Maybe a detention or a day of home suspension?

How about expulsion?

One of two things seems to be going on here. Either there was more than just making out going on, or the school district severely overreacted. I'm hard pressed to come up with an alternative besides those two.

You've Got To Be Kidding

Look at the picture in this article. Go ahead, look. Barack Obama and Ted Kennedy are several feet away from Hillary Clinton, and Clinton is talking to someone else. How could anyone but some crazed "vote for her because she's a woman" zealot come up with the idea that Obama is in any way ignoring or snubbing Clinton? Good God, he's behind her and a few feet away!

Obama insists he committed nothing like a snub, and eyewitnesses in the room didn't see Clinton reach for Obama's hand.

"Senator Clinton and I have had very cordial relations, off the floor and on the floor," Obama told reporters yesterday after the slight turned into a full-blown flap.

"I waved at her as I was coming into the Senate chamber before we walked over last night.

"I think that there's just a lot more tea-leaves-reading going on here than I think people are suggesting."

I'm not carrying any water for Obama, but this is one Clinton-created controversy that's just too pathetic for words.

Carnival of Education

This week's Carnival is here and includes my post about the crazy professor who doesn't think K-12 students should learn multiplication, division, or fractions (makes one wonder what he thinks should be taught). It doesn't appear that the host liked my post much, though, as I got only a link without any description of the post at all--the only such link in the entire Carnival.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Race and Gender Cards

This National Journal article about playing the "race and gender cards", including a lengthy exposition on the book The Race Card: How Bluffing About Bias Makes Race Relations Worse, is phenomenal. Of course I agree with only some of it, the author of the book being identified as liberal, but parts of it seemed like sunlight after a long, dark storm.

Gloria Steinem took Hillary Rodham Clinton's "I am woman, vote for me" approach to the limit in a New York Times op-ed by suggesting that it would be better to elect a white woman than a black man because women got the franchise 50 years later and have "no masculinity to prove."
...
"All the habits of verbal thuggery that have long been used against critics of affirmative action [and of] radical feminism," David Brooks observed in his New York Times column, "are now being turned inward by the Democratic front-runners."

Is it too much to hope that this embarrassing identity-politics brawl proves to be a learning experience for liberals about the dangers of reflexively attributing racist, sexist, and other bigoted motives to people who disagree with or displease them?

Happily, a lively new book by a man whose policy prescriptions are generally liberal offers a wealth of perceptive insights about the harms done by promiscuously crying racism -- and sexism, and homophobia -- when the real problem is not (or not necessarily) contemporary bigotry but the tragic legacy of our history of oppression. The book is The Race Card: How Bluffing About Bias Makes Race Relations Worse, by Richard Thompson Ford, a Stanford law professor.
...
Ford stipulates that plenty of racists still walk the earth. But he stresses a reality from which most Democratic politicians and liberal activists avert their eyes: "Many of today's racial injustices are not caused by simple prejudice; instead, they are legacies of the racial caste system of our recent past, entrenched by the inertia of class hierarchy and reinforced by the unforgiving competition of capitalist markets. As a result, many people have legitimate grievances but no racist to blame for them." Ford calls this "racism without racists."

Among Ford's other insights are these. (And he lists a few good ones--Darren)
...
Ford demonstrates brilliantly how the Supreme Court's insistence that racial preferences in education are illegal unless designed to promote "diversity" has forced liberals "to embrace what had once been the fringe position of black nationalists (and white supremacists): The races are fundamentally -- perhaps intrinsically -- different." This has helped to entrench in the academic world an obsession with multiculturalism and self-segregation -- all but displacing the ideal of integration that was the original and the best justification for racial preferences.
...
Democrats will be a healthier party when they start listening to thinkers such as Ford and tuning out demagogues such as Sharpton. Obama seems to get that, most of the time. Does Team Clinton?

It's clear that the answer to his last question is a resounding no.

Update, 1/30/08: Today's major Sacramento newspaper has the following quote:

Sen. Barack Obama says he has built a diverse coalition to win the presidency, blind to differences of race, gender or age.

If a white guy said that, he'd be accused by the multiculturalists of being a racist or a liar. Maybe if Obama can say it, mean it, and get away with it, it will someday become accepted that the very colorblind society that Dr. King spoke of is truly that to which we should aspire.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Much Of The History We Teach Was Made By People We Taught

So says one of the many recruiting posters put out by West Point, and the saying is true even when war is not the topic under discussion.

Baseball? Invented by a West Pointer.
Whistler's Mother? Painted by a West Pointer.
Chrysler Bonneville, and/or the Bonneville Salt Flats? Named for a West Pointer.
Panama Canal? Construction supervised by a West Pointer.
Two US Presidents, and a few foreign presidents? West Point grads.
Robert's Rules of Order? Written by a West Pointer.

You get the idea. And there are plenty of other examples.

Most people don't think of West Point, though, when they think about astronauts. That's about to change.

The second man to walk on the moon, Buzz Aldrin, is a West Point graduate.

So are astronauts Frank Borman, Ed White and about 15 other men who have flown in outer space. At least another 20 West Point graduates were involved in the Explorer I and Apollo projects.

To remind the world of what an impact the U.S. Military Academy had on the early days of space exploration, the West Point Association of Graduates has invested heavily in the courtyard of the new building housing the Saturn V at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. The association bought bricks - at $100 a pop - and had the names of those noteworthy graduates etched on each.

Firing Teachers At Underperforming Schools

We had a rich discussion at lunch today, one that is a great tie-in to the article linked below.

A colleague was lamenting the fact that all attempts to improve student learning focus on the schools. "What about the families? What about the community?" I told her that while I agree with the underlying thought process of school improvement, it's often sold in a horrible way--"You teachers suck and need to do a better job." A more positive and realistic way to sell such a program would be something like this: "It's true that there are societal and family issues that cause some children not to do as well as others, or as well as they should. Still, that isn't reason for us not to do everything we can to improve our instruction and other practices. Who here would say they're doing 100% of everything they could reasonably do to help students? We can't wait for the parents to do what they should do before we do what we can do--the kids deserve better. So what can we do to improve that over which we have control?" She certainly agreed that a program presented in that manner would seem much more reasonable than one presented in the manner of "You're not doing your job and need to do better," which often seems to be the tone when school improvement is discussed.

So imagine this story out of Chicago:

In a dramatic proposal to reform eight chronically under-performing schools, Chicago Public Schools could fire hundreds of teachers and their principals next fall, replacing them with better-trained or better-performing educators, school officials said.


This leads me to question: are they being fired from the district, or just from these particular schools? It's important to note that the schools in question had already been "reconstituted", where all staff members had to reapply for their positions (and presumably "bad" ones were forced to take jobs at other schools). Here's what happened back then:

Of the 167 teachers deemed the worst of the lot among those seven schools and ousted by the board, more than half ended up back in Chicago public schools, including some targeted for improvement.


So are they really going to be fired this time? Looks like it.

Though teaching positions in low-performing schools can be tough to fill, Duncan said there is "a huge amount of interest" among educators who are excited about getting in on the ground floor of reformed schools' future success. He said the district is interested in the best talent, including nationally board-certified and Golden Apple teachers.

As extra incentive, the district is offering annual performance bonuses of up to $10,000 to principals and master teachers.

In some cases, good teachers will have the chance to be hired back, but the vast majority will be fired, Duncan said.


Why were these so-called bad teachers not fired before now? Does the school situation really have to become apocalyptic before incompetent teachers are fired? Who's to blame for this sad state of affairs? You know who I'm going to point fingers at--school/district administration and the teachers union.

One thing the district is doing that might bear some fruit is they're changing all the schools in a neighborhood, rather than just the high school.

"The simple premise is you can't fix the high school without also fixing the elementary school," Duncan said. "By doing this by neighborhood, we have a chance in a very short amount of time to dramatically impact the educational opportunities for children in that community."


Left unsaid is where they're going to get all the teachers needed to fill the slots of those let go. And if some of that dead wood is a tenured teacher with, say, 15 or 20 years of experience, is that teacher really going to be fired?

This will make for a fun story to watch--especially if you like Chicago-style politics :-)

Teachers In Physical Danger?

Here are two references to the same incident--specifically, that a substitute teacher was "body-slammed" by junior high students in the LA Unified School District, and how the district's insurance company has yet to accept the teacher's disability claim.

Teachers and students do not assault each other. Period. Any that do should be subject to severe penalties.

"On Oct. 5, 2007, at another notorious middle school, I was deliberately body-slammed on the head by two to three large young men in a P.E. class of 53 students, while another teacher (someone I had never met before) was decent enough to give a formal declaration to school and police authorities of what he had witnessed. I sustained a concussion and sciatica nerve damage as a result of this personal attack intended to 'terrorize [me].' I have memory lapses and continued head and leg pain. I'm told by the local police that this sort of physical abuse on teachers occurs with disturbing regularity. The LAUSD case nurse assigned to my case labeled my attack 'boys will be boys.'" she wrote.


If true, heads should roll--and I don't say that lightly.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Rocket Man

I watched The Astronaut Farmer tonight. I got a kick out of it when one character said that liftoff was at "Zero hour, 9 am."

Last weekend I was watching Season 1 of Heroes, in which George Takei had a short recurring role. After his first appearance, he gets in a car and drives away--the license plate of his car was NCC1701.

I love it when I get the inside jokes in shows.

If you want a hilarious movie that's nothing but inside jokes, mostly about science fiction, watch Free Enterprise. Shatner plays himself.

California's Newest School District

Last November, local voters passed a measure combining three K-6 districts and one 7-12 district into California's newest, Twin Rivers Unified School District.

I spent 11 1/2 of my 13 years of K-12 education in two of the districts making up Twin Rivers. I spent 5 years as a student, and 4 years as a teacher, in the Grant District. You'd think I'd be disappointed to see this element from my life go away, but nothing could be further from the truth. It's long past time for Grant to disappear.

Creating a unified school district from four relatively underperforming districts isn't automatically going to create a bunch of Stanford-bound students. Having coordinated curricula might help improve instruction as well as learning, though.

But the best reason for Grant to go the way of the dodo is it was just a horrible place to work. It was poorly managed, mismanaged, or not managed for over 30 years. There was constant strife between the district office and the teachers, strife that became almost unbearable under Superintendent Larry "Ratboy" Buchanan--whose only goal in life seemed to be to get good enough at something to merit having a school named after him, like his father did near Fresno. He failed miserably at that goal. His legacy was the dissolution of the Grant District, a fitting legacy for someone who should have disappeared himself several years ago.

It's clear my contempt for this man knows no bounds. Getting rid of Ratboy, though, which happened shortly before the election, wasn't enough; Grant had become so dysfunctional over the past few decades that the district administration needed a complete, bottom-to-top overhaul. There was no one--and I do mean no one--at that district office with any idea of how a school district should be run, or with any idea that one could be run without personal vendettas, cults of personality, vindictiveness, and corruption.

A school board has already been elected for Twin Rivers, and it does not include any of the former Grant board members. That school board has already named some of the district officers, including an interim superintendent, and none of those officers comes from the former Grant District.

I know the person who's trying to merge the four districts' teachers' contracts into a new Twin Rivers contract. He's picking the best parts from each contract and piecing them together to form Twin Rivers', and if the board approves his work, those teachers will be among the best compensated (in overall package) in the area! My current district used to hold that position, but it's slipped far in the past several years. When the Twin Rivers contract is ratified, I'll make sure my own local union takes a look-see at it in an effort to shame our district into paying a little more.

I wish this new district luck. Everyone with a stake in Twin Rivers deserves for it to be a well-run, high-quality education system. It has much potential and promise--let's all hope it lives up to that potential.

I Qualify For Mensa

Who knew? My SAT scores from 1982 qualify me.

Want to know how smart (or poor) I am? I'm smart enough not to pay $52/year to join an organization that will allow me to tout how smart I am!

American History

Mr. Chanman of Buckhorn Road, a social science teacher, isn't very pleased with Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States (note the commie-sounding name), nor with Matt Damon's making a movie of said book.

They Did NOT Write That

It's a good thing I'm not politically correct, or I'd be aghast at the cultural insensitivity of Time Magazine. See the original headline here, and Time's current headline here. It's different already, and I can't say I'm surprised.

I'd like to believe someone was just being funny and that Instapundit got snookered by a photoshopped picture, but I doubt that's the case. In fact, I'm going to email and ask him if he saw that on Time's web site or if someone mailed it to him. I find it hard to believe that left-leaning Time would write something so incredibly non-PC--unless, of course, they're helping the Clintons with their race-baiting tactics.

In case something changes, here are the two headlines:
Obama's Rout Rejiggers The Race (shown on Instapundit)
Obama's Rout Reshapes The Race (current on Time's site)

Update: Glenn Reynolds responded to my email, "No, I saved that screenshot myself."

Yahoo hasn't changed it yet, so here's the screenshot I just took.

click to enlarge

So what does this teach us about liberals, boys and girls? Answer: Nothing we didn't already know.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Half-wit Professor Proclaims 'Down With Fractions'

More evidence that being educated and being smart are not equivalent.

But if your kids are taught math according to the principles of renowned University of Pennsylvania math professor Dennis DeTurck, they won't be able to do these things without an electronic gizmo to think for them. DeTurck, also dean of the college of arts and sciences at Penn, wants to get rid of fractions. He also wants to banish division, square roots, and multiplication.

That's right, say good-bye to real math. It's a liberal's outcome-based education wet dream. And it's gaining acceptance as Profesor DeTurck gets ready to release a new book attacking traditional math taught in schools. Just as our students are failing even more versus the rest of the world in math and the inextricably-linked science, we need to make them more dumb and ignorant in those disciplines? Yes, if Dr. DeTurck gets his way. They can do it on a calculator on their cellphone, apparently.

Why teach PE in schools, while we're at it? Machines can do any labor we need done. Why teach grammar or spelling when there are grammar and spelling checks in our word processors?

We can be like those disembodied brains in that Star Trek episode, betting quataloos on what the next stupid idea from an academic will be.

Update, 1/27/08: University of Rochester math professor Ralph Raimi had this to say in an email, and has given me permission to post it here:

How can fractions be as obsolete as Roman numerals, and important for high-level mathematics too? Isn't Dean DeTurck losing it? It's said that old deans never die; they just lose their faculties.

CO2, or Solar Radiation

Check out the graphs at Kerplunk and see which one you think is more likely to affect climate.

That Evil Wal*Mart

O, the conflicted psyches that this is going to cause:

More good news came this week for advocates of non-petroleum or alternative energy source vehicles when it was confirmed that Wal-Mart executives are thinking about selling hybrids. Motor Authority reports that the monster retail chain's CEO, H. Lee Scott, is a devout greenie and wants to help automakers get more clean vehicles to the market.
I continue to be a fan of Wal*Mart.

Iraqi WMD

I cannot be the only person tired of those who claim that President Bush lied about Iraqi WMD. Believing something that isn't correct is not a lie--lefties know that, but they're going to lie about it anyway. Fine, upstanding humans, those lefties.

So why did so many people in so many governments believe that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction?

Saddam Hussein allowed the world to believe he had weapons of mass destruction to deter rival Iran and did not think the United States would stage a major invasion, according to an FBI interrogator who questioned the Iraqi leader after his capture.


And that statement is from FoxNews, which got it from the Associated Press, which got it from CBS' 60 Minutes. No right-wing conspiracy here, certainly not with the inclusion of those last two sources.

The Associated Press spoke to a close aide of Saddam's in August 2003, who said that Saddam did not expect a U.S. invasion and deliberately kept the world guessing about his weapons program, although he already had gotten rid of it.


Saddam publicly denied having unconventional weapons before the U.S. invasion, but prevented U.N. inspectors from working in the country from 1998 until 2002 and when they finally returned in November 2002, they often complained that Iraq wasn't fully cooperating.


The Duelfer Report acknowledges that the program had been halted, but that Saddam was ready to reinstate it as soon as sanctions were lifted.

Piro (the interrogator) added that Saddam had the intention of restarting an Iraqi weapons program at the time, and had engineers available for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.


The war was legal, just, and right. Despite his faults as Chief Executive, President Bush was clearly the right man in the right job at the right time. For that I am exceedingly thankful.

Update, 1/27/08: Kerplunk has more details, and I like the title of his post: Saddam lied, people died.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Teachers Union vs. The Kids

I've said too many times before--if I'm paying money for a union, I don't want that union to look out for the kids. That's what their parents, the school administration, and the elected school board are for. I want a union to look after my pay, benefits, and working conditions, and nothing else.

Yet, the teachers unions will always talk about how what they support benefits students.

Except when it doesn't.

The short version: Bruce Randolph was once one of the worst schools in the state, but recent reforms have turned it around. Now the school's principal, teachers and union reps want exemptions from several provisions of the teachers' contract, which they say are hindering their efforts.

Guess what the union said...

In any event, it's going to get very interesting in Denver, because the Bruce Randolph administration and faculty refuse to back down. Greg Ahrnsbrak, a union rep at the school, said, "They [the union] are doing everything they can to block a real reform effort. Reform is happening. You're either going to be on the bus or beneath it. I want to be driving it."


I like this guy Ahrnsbrak.

Paying Students To Study

You might think I'd be against this program that will pay students $8/hr just to study. And you'd be partly right, partly wrong.

You'd be right that, in principle, I'm against this policy. In fact, Joanne (see blogroll) had a post a couple weeks ago quoting a report that such bribery schemes don't really work. I'd suggest that such programs are probably counter-productive, but hey, give it a try. It may not do any good, but there's no evidence it'll do harm. According to the report mentioned above, after the incentive is removed the students just revert to where they were before the incentive was instituted. No harm, no foul.

I wouldn't try to stop this program because it's not publicly funded. If some fool wants to give his money to poor kids, and the money causes no harm, more power to him.

Green, But With A Big Black Smear

From Environmental Republican:

There are tons of inconsistencies in the environmental movement such as plugging an electric car into an outlet that connects to the grid where the electricity is supplied by coal-burning, greenhouse gas emitting power plants or driving a Prius that leaves a larger carbon footprint than a Hummer.
This one beats them all however....


To summarize, a Santa Clara (California) County District Attorney is going after a couple because their trees are blocking a neighbor's solar panels.

Their redwood trees. And those don't grow overnight. (The San Jose Mercury News has the full story.)

The comments to that post so far are outstanding. Here are two examples:

The enviros are getting sucked into this trap of hypocrisy and contradiction because they "act locally" in order to be self-righteous, and actually don't *objectively* "think globally" about their actions' complete contexts/costs.

Either because its too hard, or it gets in the way of feeling good (and superior).


Yep, and this:

Oh, and anyone who still thinks environmentalists are about the environment and not about being elite hasn't been paying attention. No nukes, no windfarms, no solutions are good enough. Contradictions are gonna result.

As they say inconsistencies are the hobgoblin of little minds, and the elites do not worry about such things.

So which do you support? Redwood trees, or solar panels?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

This Is Your Captain Speaking

My friend the pilot has passed on a few more pictures.

Can you tell what city that is? Well, that's Market Street pointing to the gap between Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Islands, and that's Oakland and Berkeley on the other side of the Bay. The eastern end of Golden Gate Park is on the left.


The north side of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Marin Headlands. Star Trek fans will note that this is the location of Starfleet Headquarters. Sausalito is in the background.


Point Reyes.


This 747 was 1000' below. The closing velocity was 950 knots.

Court Orders UC System To Pay Up

From the San Francisco Chronicle, with a hat tip to NewsAlert:

Thousands of UC students are in line for refunds of part of their 2003 tuition after the state Supreme Court rejected the university's appeal Wednesday of a ruling that said UC broke its promise to hold the fees steady.

Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!

Should you, gentle reader, ever wonder about what kind of gift would be appropriate to present to your favorite *cough* *cough* blogger, I refer you here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Carnival of Education

This week's installment is at The Median Sib, and includes my post about maternity leave for high school students.

Blogiversary

It's been three years, and a couple thousand posts, since I started this blog. It's a labor of love (and ego), one I enjoy immensely. Thank you for visiting here.

And if you think they'd like it, send the URL to your friends! I'd love to increase my readership.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Teachers Who Were In The Army

I read this quote today on an email list of which I am a member and have received permission to post it here. The subject at hand was ex-army officers who currently teach.

I think we teach because we've been taught to care about people. The Navy has their boats, the Air Force has their planes. What do we have? People. Growing kids by teaching them is just a continuation of that attitude.

This was in no way a slam against our brethren in other services. It's merely a matter of emphasis.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Entirely The Wrong Idea

The author of this LA Times article seems to think there's a problem with the California Republican Party's only wanting Republicans to choose who will represent the party in the general election.

No one's being denied the "right" to vote in the Republican primary--register as a Republican, and you can vote for any Republican on the ballot. So what if the Democrats allow unaffiliated voters to vote in their primary? Why would you want someone from outside of your party choosing your party's candidate? I see too much opportunity for trouble there, and entirely support closed primaries.

Dr. King

On this, the observed birthday of Dr. King's birth, I choose to point out yet again how the American left distorts Dr. King's statements, views, and legacy for its own ends. I quote from this CNN article, which tacks nicely with James Loewen's views of King in Lies My Teacher Told Me:

But nearly 40 years after his assassination in April 1968, after the deaths of his wife and of others who knew both the man and what he stood for, some say King is facing the same fate that has befallen many a historical figure -- being frozen in a moment in time that ignores the full complexity of the man and his message.

"Everyone knows, even the smallest kid knows about Martin Luther King, can say his most famous moment was that 'I have a dream' speech," said Henry Louis Taylor Jr., professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Buffalo.

"No one can go further than one sentence," he said. "All we know is that this guy had a dream; we don't know what that dream was." (boldface mine--Darren)

Oh yes we do. The American left may want to distort and pervert and ignore that dream, but I do not. Among some specific examples of racism and injustice he pointed out in his famous 1963 speech, one point stands out as an exemplar for all time:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

It's hard to parse those words, but some try. You can twist all you want, but the meaning is clear--a colorblind society. He repeatedly called out to Let Freedom Ring, for equality of the races, for justice and harmony.

Those points are twisted today using a variety of politically correct code words and Orwellian doublespeak.

Whilst looking over a list of King's quotes I came across several that were good but one in particular that I hadn't heard before, one that spoke to me:

It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important.

Indeed. It's important, good, and right that the law has removed what had been hurdles, both legal and illegal, placed in the path of American blacks. It should go no further than that.

It's true that the Dr. King of 1968 was different from the King of 1963. The former involved himself in a sanitation workers' strike and the Vietnam War, far from the lofty ideals of the latter. It's the King of 1963 that will be frozen in time, and from whom I draw my inspiration.

I've posted before about one way to honor him.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Update On A Student

Back in August I posted about a student who impressed me not by asking how I could accommodate his lack of test-taking ability, but how he could improve.

Well, the semester's over. He got an A.

Public Schools

I read this column and while I found some morsels in it worth chewing, the rest seemed a bit over the top. It's not that I don't support home schooling--I do, among other schooling options-- but there's a bit too much drama in that column to hook me.

However, a phrase in one of the comments definitely caught my eye.

If you want to sum up the worst potential of public schools, you don't call them public schools. You call them government education centers. If that very accurate phrase doesn't send a shiver down your spine, then you are what's known as a liberal.

Institutional *-ism In Schools

What changes would you recommend if I told you that African-American children were:

four to eight times as likely to be drugged with Ritalin and other stimulants, which pediatrician Leonard Sax, calls “academic steroids.”

reading much more poorly than are other students.

five times more likely to commit suicide.

two and a half times as likely to drop out of high school.

severely underrepresented in college and even more so among college graduates, thereby locking them out of today’s, let alone tomorrow’s, knowledge economy.

You’d likely invoke such words as “institutional racism” to justify major efforts to improve African-Americans’ numbers.

All of the above statements are true except for one thing: I’m not talking about African-American children. I’m talking about children of all races, indeed half of all children, half of our next generation: boys.

When a disparity hurts females or minorities, major efforts are implemented to redress the situation. Why not with boys?


Any thoughts on why this is? The author quoted above points the finger at even more "feminized" schools.

Do you agree that this situation is similar to the concept of "institutionalized racism"?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

This Interests Me, And I Don't Even Drink Coffee

"Fair trade" coffee isn't all it's cracked up to be.

You'd think this confluence of social responsibility and double lattes, good business practices and lefty politics, would make Katzeff a happy man. But he and a growing number of roasters say the Fair Trade movement has lost its way. The movement has always aroused suspicion on the right, where free traders object to its price floors and anti-globalization rhetoric. Yet critics from the left are more vocal and more angry by half; they point to unhappy farmers, duped consumers, an entrenched Fair Trade bureaucracy, and a grassroots campaign gone corporate.

Honestly, though--how can I be surprised?

President Reagan

There's a very interesting discussion about President Reagan over at The Volokh Conspiracy. I'm genuinely enjoying the give and take in the comments. I was only 15 when Reagan was campaigning the first time, and I was a big fan--but I don't remember anyone then attacking him as a racist.

The VC discussion is giving me a fascinating insight into how liberals see things, about how two people with two different sets of beliefs can look at the exact same thing and draw two very different conclusions.

California

This covers it in a nutshell.

At some point we Californians should ask ourselves, how we inherited a state with near perfect weather, the world's richest agriculture, plentiful timber, minerals, and oil, two great ports at Los Angeles and Oakland, a natural tourist industry from Carmel to Yosemite, industries such as Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and aerospace—and serially managed to turn all of that into the nation's largest penal system, periodic near bankruptcy, and sky-high taxes.


Victor Davis Hanson.

Friday, January 18, 2008

This Is Not How You *Train* Your Players, Coach

Via FoxNews.com:

OSAKA, Japan — A junior high school soccer coach in Japan who made team members run laps in the nude killed himself on Thursday, the Mainichi Daily News reported.

Click here for the full story.

The 48-year-old coach, who was not named in the story, made several male players take off their clothes to run laps as punishment for missing penalties during practice.

On Thursday he jumped in front of a train.

If I had a label called "weird", this story would certainly merit that label.

Affirmative Action In Elections and College Admissions

The MSM groupthink this week was that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Democratic candidates for their party's presidential nomination, have called off their little racial and gender tiff. I wasn't alone in the blogosphere enjoying watching the vanguard of political correctness, the Democratic Party, warring against itself over which group, women or blacks, was the more aggrieved party.

But now they're calling back the dogs. From Discriminations (see blogroll):

“Sen. [Barack] Obama and I agree completely that neither race nor gender should be a part of this campaign,” New York Sen. Hillary Clinton said
Yeah, right. And if you believe this, you’ll believe that if we have a Clinton-Obama or an Obama-Clinton ticket, you’ll never hear anything during the ensuing campaign about historical firsts, ceilings being broken, etc.

I don't believe her any more than John does. As he so often does, though, John distills the moment to its essence:

I wish, just once, that, upon hearing this “no race, no gender” nonsense from the Democrats’ dueling duo, some intrepid reporter would ask, “ Well, Senator(s), if you believe race and gender should play no role in selecting a president, why do you continue to believe they should play such large roles in selecting college students and employees?”

"This Is Your Captain Speaking"

I have a friend who is a commercial pilot, and he's given me permission to post his most recent pictures from up front. All commentary is his.

"Cascades 'peaking' through the clouds."


"Mt. St. Helens. Taken looking toward the sun so it is rather hazy. You can see the side that was blown away. "


"Another photo of Mt. Ranier. I have wanted to climb Rainier on the Liberty Ridge Route (it starts at the left of the photo). It looks very imposing and slopes up to 60 degrees towards the top. The photo and 39,000' flatten the mountain out. "


"Mt. Ranier from 39000'. This is cool. It was much more impressive looking out my window. "

Interpreting the Constitution

Fred Thompson had this to say about the Constitution, and if my back weren't still messed up I'd have jumped and given an loud and thunderous "Amen!"

I do not believe the Constitution is a living, breathing document. I am committed to appointing strict constructionist judges to the bench if I am elected President, strict constructionists who believe the Constitution has a fixed meaning that can be applied to cases that come before the courts today. They do NOT believe the Constitution is a “living, breathing document,” whose meaning, constantly changing with the sifting sands of our culture, can be determined and applied by unelected judges.

Why I'm Such A Strong Supporter of the 1st Amendment

Without vigorous defense of the 1st Amendment, you get what's currently happening in Canada.

Ezra Levant was one of the few publishers in Canada to reprint the notorious “Mohammed cartoons” in 2006. Two years later, he’s been hauled before a “human rights officer” to explain why offending the delicate sensibilities of sharia-minded imams is legal, legitimate and necessary. Heather Cook reports on Levant’s video-captured testimony.


Here's what Levant said in his opening testimony:

I am here at this government interrogation under protest. It is my position that the government has no legal or moral authority to interrogate me or anyone else for publishing these words and pictures... I believe that this commission has no proper authority over me. The commission was meant as a low-level, quasi-judicial body to arbitrate squabbles about housing, employment and other matters, where a complainant felt that their race or sex was the reason they were discriminated against. The commission was meant to deal with deeds, not words or ideas. Now the commission, which is funded by a secular government, from the pockets of taxpayers of all backgrounds, is taking it upon itself to be an enforcer of the views of radical Islam.


Mark Steyn is suffering similar persecution--and let's be clear, it is persecution. We Americans need to pay close attention.

Women In College

A half a century ago, three men earned college degrees for every two that women did. Today, that ratio is reversed.

Naval Academy Wussies

A "solution in search of a problem," as one quoted graduate said.

In the name of safety, the U.S. Naval Academy is considering an overhaul of one of its most bizarre traditions: the annual ritual in which a thousand first-year midshipmen struggle to conquer a 21-foot granite obelisk coated with 200 pounds of lard...

The scene is unforgettable to those who watch, as the sweating, grunting, red-faced midshipmen at the bottom, their arms linked, support a human pyramid surging to the top of the monument. The pyramid often collapses, but the plebes invariably make it to the top whether it takes them minutes or hours...

Deborah Goode, a spokeswoman for the academy, said that she could not recall any serious injuries resulting from the Herndon Climb and that the reevaluation was part of a broader reconsideration of the end-of-year events for plebes.

Alumni scoffed at the risk of someone's getting hurt, especially given the school's mission to prepare officers for combat.

This one proposal sends so many wrong messages.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Interesting Web Site

I cannot/will not vouch for the accuracy of the data presented, but this web site allows you to compare the military might of any two countries you choose.

As I said, if nothing else it's very interesting.

Students Don't Learn As Much With Substitutes As With Full-Time Teachers

It took a Duke University professor to figure that out?

As I write this there's only one comment on the subject at Joanne's site. I cannot help but completely agree with that person.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

News on the Coin Front

2008 marks the end of the 50 State Quarters Program, by all accounts the most successful circulating commemorative program in US history.

Correction: 2008 was supposed to mark the end of the program. However, on December 26th President Bush signed a law extending the program one more year.

Huh? Wha? But we're out of states, you say.

And you'd be right. 2009's quarters will not commemorate states, but territories: DC, Puerto Rico, American Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

The debate in numismatic circles has been whether those 6 quarters, which were always assumed would be minted, would represent a new, one-year program or would be tacked onto the 50 State Quarters Program. Well, I guess we have our answer now. It's certainly not the answer I'd have given, but it's the answer nonetheless.

This year we get Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, and Hawaii--finishing off the 50 states. Next year we get the territories, commonwealths, and district.

Additionally, 2009 (next year--can you believe it?) will mark the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth, and 4 new cents will be released to commemorate our 16th president. Each cent will represent a different period in his life.

Good reasons, all, to keep looking at your change--at least for the next two years.

And then, as I've said before, it's time to put Dr. King on the dime.

Religion Or Rules In Track Meet?

This story has some interesting legal morsels in it.

A high school track star has been disqualified from a meet because officials said the custom-made outfit she wears to conform to her Muslim faith violated competition rules...

Kelly was wearing the same uniform she has worn for the past three seasons while running for Theodore Roosevelt's cross-country and track teams. The custom-made, one-piece blue and orange unitard covers her head, arms, torso and legs. Over the unitard, she wears the same orange and blue T-shirt and shorts as her teammates.

The outfit allows her to compete while adhering to her Muslim faith, which forbids displaying any skin other than her face and hands...

But meet director Tom Rogers said Kelly's uniform violated rules of the National Federation of State High School Associations, which sanctioned the event. Uniforms are required to be "a single-solid color and unadorned, except for a single school name or insignia no more than 2 1/4 inches," he said.

Rogers said he knew Kelly was wearing the uniform for religious reasons and that he offered her several options to conform to the rules while still respecting her faith, including placing a plain T-shirt over her unitard and then wearing her team uniform over it.

Kelly's mother, Sarah, and Roosevelt Coach Tony Bowden disputed that account.


This is really good. At what point do schools' rules yield to personal religion, and at what point does your exercise of religion become too much for the school to accommodate?

I'd put odds at 50-50 that the ACLU will get involved.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Why *Not* Penalize A Kid For Not Doing Assignments?

I don't understand this kind of thinking, I truly don't.

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa -- Students who don't hand in homework won't receive a zero anymore under new rules for a new semester that started on Monday at Council Bluffs Community Schools.

Students and teachers are encouraged to use the new grading techniques. School officials said that under the old regime, a student who received a zero had a tough time recovering a grade in the course. Administrators said that by making the failing gap smaller, students still have a chance to bounce back and pass at the end of the semester, even after a mistake.


When you reward or reinforce a behavior--good or bad--you get more of it. Wouldn't a better plan be to get the students to do their work in the first place, rather than need to be forgiven for not doing it later?

High School Sophomores Discover Asteroid

Stories like this make my soul sing--at least the educational part of my soul.

Teaching Algebra

It's not that I'm against teaching math in new and creative ways, but I'm forced to ask--isn't there a more efficient way of teaching math than this?

One Global Warming Guy Now Gets It

Frequent RotLC reader and commenter Cameron claims not to be one of these--and I truly hope he's not--but he doesn't want to accept that these people are out there. They are.

German Air Force Academy

I got an email from a former student today. He's currently a junior at the Air Force Academy, and has been notified by the Department of Foreign Languages that he's one of 4 cadets who have been chosen to attend the "Officer School of the Air Force" in Germany during spring break. Rough duty!

I was an exchange cadet at the US Air Force Academy for the 1st semester of my junior year, and to the Royal Military Academy for two weeks during the summer before my senior year. Such programs provide valuable experiences to all concerned.

Again: congratulations, cadet!

Monday, January 14, 2008

UC Considering Lowering Standards In The Name Of Diversity

In 2006, voters in Michigan struck down racial preferences, as did Californians and Washingtonians a decade earlier. Up to five states will have that opportunity this year if proposed initiatives in those states qualify for the ballot.

But a new move is afoot to try to circumvent the intent of those initiatives in higher education. Unsurprisingly, the University of California is leading the effort, but it could spell trouble for higher education everywhere...

Now a UC policymaking board is considering sweeping changes in the admissions process that threatens to lower standards for admission for all students in hopes it will boost admission of more blacks and Hispanics (Asians already account for about 40 percent of the students). This board proposes lowering the GPA required to 2.8 and dropping the requirement for students to take SAT II tests in at least two academic subjects, among other changes.

The effect will be to lower standards — and the ultimate aim is to erode support for any objective measures of academic achievement.

If adopted, this plan will have far-reaching impact. In the academic world, as California goes so goes the nation.

The diversity crowd has long sought to eliminate standardized testing as an important factor in college admissions because blacks and Hispanics, on average, do worse than whites and Asians on standardized tests. But standardized tests are the most objective way to measure students' academic qualifications against each other.


From the Washington Times.

Biggest Disconnect Between A Song And Its Video

Walter Egan was a late 70's/early 80's singer. He only had two "hits" (if you want to call them that) that I know of, Magnet And Steel and Fool Moon Fire.

Fool Moon Fire came out when I was a high school senior. I loved the guitar work in it, loved the tune. I still think it's a beautiful song.

But the video sucks. I don't mean a little bit, I mean it sucks so bad it creates Hurricane Katrina-like low pressure.

Anyone want to nominate any other songs in the Huge Disparity Between Song Quality And Video Quality category?

Which Presidential Candidates Does the NEA Find Acceptable?

7 Democrats, and no Republicans. Isn't that a shocker.

Did Clinton's child go to public schools?
Do Obama's children go to public schools?
How about the Edwards brood?

Gotta love that commitment to public schools from the Dems. "Do as I say, not as I do" should be the education platform for the Democrat Party.

Worse Than A Speech Code

A behavior code.

There was some talk last Thursday about the possibility that "the college, ultimately, may opt for an 'aspirational' statement as opposed to a code," but the statement from a college spokeswoman Wednesday had been, "The pledge would not be optional .... If you don't agree, it is President Ryan's vision that you cannot attend the school."

Some of this just can't be taken seriously: "I promise to respect each and every member of the college community without regard to ... creed [or] political ideology ... sparing no effort to preserve the dignity of those I will come in contact with"? You have to respect people whose religious "creed" is that the Earth is flat, or that blacks or whites are morally inferior? You have to respect people without regard to political ideology, "sparing no effort to preserve the dignity of" Nazis or Stalinists?


Anyone want to guess whether or not such a policy would be selectively enforced or not, and if not, against what type of people *cough* *conservatives!* it would be rigorously pursued?

Students should not have to sign loyalty oaths in order to attend a community college. This won't last, and does not too much more than show the asininity of those who run that particular school.

Oh. My. Gawd.

Why do I believe in the 2nd Amendment?

The Founders were very clear that the right to keep and bear arms was a necessary protection against an overarching government. We can argue whether or not that argument is as valid today as it was then, given modern weaponry, but it's hard to deny that it's more difficult for a government to oppress armed citizens than unarmed citizens.

But that's a "big picture" argument. Let's go down to one person--a woman, making a 911 call, while a stalker is breaking into her house. Listen to the call.

Then tell me you'd have deprived her of her right to own a firearm.

It doesn't matter how close the police were as the man choked her--they couldn't protect her. The police weren't there. The only person she could count on was herself, and the only equalizer between her and a crazed stalker was a firearm.

Listen to the call.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Racism and the Left

Classical Values has a great post with several links, and concludes with this:

You know, it appears more and more that the Democrat's cries of racism re:Republicans is a form of projection. David Duke is denounced in mainstream Republican circles for his racism. Those same mainstream Republicans pushed Pat Buchanan out of the Party for a whiff of anti-Semitism. Or look at the heat Ron Paul is getting from Republicans. Why do the Democrats give their race baiters and anti-Semites (often one in the same) a pass?

Could it be they can't win elections without them?

Projection.

Update, 1/14/08: John at Discriminations says that Clinton is counting on Hispanic "reluctance" to support a black candidate.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

You Hate Hearing Stuff Like This

What I would say here would be so meaningless in the face of such a loss.

BATHURST, New Brunswick — A van carrying a Canadian high school boys' basketball team collided with a truck Saturday, killing seven students and the coach's wife on their way home from a game.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sgt. Derek Strong said the seven players — between the ages of 15 and 18 — were pronounced dead at the crash site after their van crossed the center line and hit the tractor-trailer shortly after midnight.

One Big Happy Union Family...

...unless your union supports one Democrat candidate for president, and mine--or at least the leaders of mine--supports another. In that case we're going to sue you in state court to make it harder for members of your union to vote.

Oh, and who's filing that suit? The state teachers union.

Nevada’s state teachers union and six Las Vegas area residents filed a lawsuit late Friday that could make it harder for many members of the state’s huge hotel workers union to vote in the hotly contested Jan. 19 Democratic caucus in Nevada.

The 13-page lawsuit in federal district court here comes two days after the 60,000-member Culinary Workers Union Local 226 in Nevada endorsed Senator Barack Obama, a blow to Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Obama addressed the Culinary Union at their hall earlier Friday.


The Nevada State Teachers Association is affiliated with the NEA.

Update, 1/17/08: CNN reports that

A federal judge has ruled that the Democratic Party can go ahead with the 9
at-large caucuses on the strip. The ruling could have a decisive effect on the
result in the state given that recent polls show a dead heat between Clinton,
Obama, and John Edwards.

It's sad that judges have to get so involved in our elections now.

Presidential Politics

I'm not a single-issue voter. I do, though, have some points that are necessary, but not sufficient, for a politician to get my vote. In other words, I may not vote for that person if they agree with me on such a point, but I won't vote for him/her if he/she disagrees with me on such a point.

So, herewith, is my list of major presidential candidates and why I won't vote for them.

Democrats
Edwards--socialist, slimy/gross
Obama--socialist, either dumb or naive
Clinton--socialist, anger issues

Republicans
McCain--enemy of the 1st Amendment, anger issues
Huckabee--socialist

If either of those two Republicans are the party's candidate in November, I will cast a protest vote (California Republicans do that anyway) for a third party candidate or perhaps, for the first time in my adult life, not cast a vote for President.

Update: Here's a quote-of-the-day from Ace regarding supporters of a particular fringe candidate:

"If you dream it, you can do it" is a silly bit of twaddle told to eighth graders at "Be Somebody!" self-esteem rallies. Adults who consider themselves astute and savvy really ought not be indulging in such childish sloganeering.

As someone who's sick of hearing about people's self-esteem, I love that quote.

Hat tip to RightWingNation (see blogroll) for that link.

Losing Your Right To Vote

Democrats are going to keep pushing for "card checks" instead of private ballots for union elections. How can any American justify such a scheme?

Personal Update

I just got back from my 4th doctor visit this week. At least now I can stand, ever so tenuously, and walk, ever so gingerly. This is certainly an improvement over earlier this week. I've hurt my back before but it's never taken this long to heal, and I've never shown this little improvement over time.

Growing old sucks.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Using Math/Technology in the Real/Modern World

Kerplunk has a great post about some who believe untested computer models for global warming but who resent tested models from, say, actuaries.

If I were to mention the gist of the linked post in class, would lefties think I was "contributing to critical thinking skills" or "indoctrinating"? I wonder....

No, actually I don't wonder at all--I already know the answer!

Math vs. Multiculturalism

They both start with M, so maybe each is as important as the other.

Go see what Joanne has to say.

Another Reason Not To Support Socialized Medicine

We can't even figure out how to pay promised benefits for Medicare and Social Security yet, but many (mostly Democrats, but some RINOs as well) want to add socialized medicine to the list of government-provided benefits. Perhaps they should read this very short article from the Financial Times (registration required after a couple sentences):

The US is at risk of losing its top-notch triple-A credit rating within a decade unless it takes radical action to curb soaring healthcare and social security spending, Moody's, the credit rating agency, said yesterday.


Personally, I support small clinics in Wal*Mart and similar places--but some don't, probably because they then wouldn't have an excuse to foist more government control on us.

Making A Point With Budget Cuts

There are many state parks being considered for (temporary) closure due to budget cuts. Sadly, here in Sacramento some of the most interesting educational and historical sites are on the list.

The 48 parks (around the state) proposed for closure are scattered around the state and include redwood forests, a remote beach and numerous historic sites. Closing the sites would eliminate 136 positions, and help the parks department cut about 8.9 percent – or $13.3 million – from its general fund budget.

The parks would be put in caretaker mode, and reopened when the budget situation improves...

(In addition to Sutter's Fort): the historic Governor's Mansion at 16th and H streets, and the tiny State Indian Heritage Museum next to Sutter's Fort, where Swiss immigrant John Sutter established the first non-Indian settlement in the Central Valley at what is now 27th and L streets in bustling midtown.


Heck, my school district isn't big on field trips anyway.

Budget, Ax, Deficit--Yep, that's BAD

California's budget gap is estimated to be around $14 billion this year (for my UK readers, that's 14x10^9, not 14x10^12). California's budget is something over $100 billion, and education takes up about 50% of that budget. Trying to balance the budget, while leaving education alone, doesn't seem to pass the common sense test, does it?

Let me be clear--I'm not at all happy about having less money available with which to teach. For me that comes down to doing without the overhead projector when the bulb goes out, not being able to use worksheets or anything else that requires copying, perhaps even having my classroom cleaned every third night instead of every other night. All these and more add up to an environment for students that isn't anywhere near optimal, but I recognize that money doesn't grow on trees. Cuts have to be made somewhere, and it seems ridiculous not to look at the states single largest expenditure when doing so. It would, however, be nice if those cuts didn't affect the classroom, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

The LA Times thinks the governor's current budget proposals are just theatrics designed to make tax increases seem more palatable. I guess that's possible. To all the liberals out there crying for state-run health care--and that includes the governor on this issue--I have to say this: can you imagine the boat we'd be in if the state were paying for everyone's health care? There would have to be cuts, people would do without, children and old people would suffer, etc--those would be your howls, and you would have been the cause because you are the ones that want the state government to take on that additional burden. I firmly believe that government at all levels should learn to live within its current means before ever considering taking on new permanent financial requirements.

Again: think of the ramifications for government-run health care whenever there is an economic downturn. These economic cycles, like so-called global warming, are cyclical; they will happen again. Think about what you're asking.

If you think it's ok to burden our children and their children with today's debts, more power to you--but that doesn't sound very "compassionate".

So when the CTA objects to the governor's even considering budget cuts in education (again, how can he not even consider cuts in 50% of the state budget?)--I wonder who will ask them what they think needs to be cut. Where should the state budget be trimmed in order even to attempt a balanced budget?

I think we all know what they'll say. "Tax increases." The liberals are nothing if not predictable.

Al Gore Is In Baghdad?

Read this story (or just the headline, if you like), and then search for Gore Effect.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Little Press Bias

Here's the headline from CNNMoney.com:

Weakest holiday season in years

That's pretty alarming, isn't it? Things must be pretty bad. The economy's in the dumps.

As I read it--and perhaps I'm just inferring, and the headline writer didn't mean to imply--this year's holiday sales were worse than last year's. After all, it's the weakest holiday season in years.

But what do we read a few paragraphs into the story?

Perkins, who tracks same-store sales at 43 retail chains, said combined November-December sales rose 1.7 percent, their weakest gain since 2002.

In the overall retail sector, Thomson Financial, which also compares monthly results at 43 of the nation's largest retail chains based on analysts' estimates, said total December same-store sales rose just 0.5 percent compared to its revised estimate for a 0.7 percent gain...

Even though November same-store sales rose a much better 4 percent overall, the average of the two months taken together showed a 2.3 percent rise, which Thomson said is the slowest pace of growth since 2004 when sales for the two months combined also rose 2.3 percent.

The National Retail Federation, the industry's largest trade group, expects total sales for November and December combined rose 4 percent this past holiday season, which would mark the slowest pace of growth since 2002.


So it appears that holiday sales actually grew from 2006 levels, just not as robustly as some expected. That means retailers sold even more stuff.

The headline is clearly misleading. Could it be yet another example of press bias? And why would the press, specifically left-leaning CNN, want people to think the retail economy is worse than it actually is?

Hmm, I wonder.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

School Pays $3,000 For Gender Discrimination Against Boy Cheerleader

I don't know where to begin with this story, so I'll just give you the tidbits and let you decide for yourself.

Bobby Thorn wanted to be the only boy on his school's cheerleading squad, but that didn't happen.

The 13-year-old attends East Hardin Middle School in Glendale, but the controversial decision to cut him from the team expands beyond the district's boundaries.

Bobby's mother filed a discrimination claim with the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights two years ago, and now a settlement has been reached...

Despite his flips, his tryout was a flop. He didn't make the team.

“I was devastated,” he said.

So was Bobby's mother, Melissa Barner, who said she has sworn statements from other parents stating the coach admitted cutting Bobby because she didn't want a boy on her team.
Amazing.

Here's the part that disturbs me most.

In the settlement agreement, the school admits no wrongdoing but the commission has ordered mandatory training for the principal, teachers and coaches at the school.

Why not the secretaries and custodians, too? They had as much to do with this as the teachers did. And the woman who cut him isn't even the cheerleading coach anymore. Such mandatory "diversity training" (they're not calling it that, but you make the call) has always struck me as excessively punitive, counterproductive, wrong-headed, and sometimes even dangerous.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Carnival of Education

This week's installment is hosted by a union (gasp!) and includes my post on the CBEST.

This Year's Not Off To A Good Start

I type this post on the laptop while sitting in bed--at a time when I'm usually getting dressed for work.

I did something bad to my back this past weekend. I'm not sure exactly what, but yesterday walking was a pretty difficult proposition. This morning, standing is nigh impossible. I was able to struggle into my library and get online to request a substitute, and now I'm back in bed with the laptop and phone in case someone from school needs to know where something is.

Chiropractor appointment is this afternoon. I think I should call and try to get in earlier. After all, I'm just wasting gravity right now.

Good thing I bought this laptop a couple weeks ago, eh? And good thing I stay after school on Mondays to plan out each week's worth of lessons. If nothing else, my sub should be able to provide some semblance of normality in my absence.

Growing old sucks. I guess it beats the alternative, but still.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Maternity Leave For High School Students

Some in Denver are promoting this idea.

Teen mothers-to-be attending a Denver high school are asking for at least four weeks maternity leave, saying they don't want to be penalized for absences while healing and bonding with their new babies, The Denver Post reports.

Maybe, if you get pregnant in high school, and you want to take time off to bond with your child, you graduate a bit late. That's not punishment or penalizing, that's a natural result of actions you've taken. At the very least, if you want to take several weeks off school, you should go on a home/hospital-type program or perhaps online classes (assuming those programs exist in Colorado).

Giving new mothers "unexcused absences" for staying home with newborns seems ridiculous--"health" reasons, similar to an extended illness, would seem more reasonable. But the solution isn't to build in more time for the girls to miss school, but to explore alternatives (I listed three above) that allow them to be good mothers and good students. How can you miss a fourth of a semester and still learn what you should? This attitude treats a high school diploma as a commodity that's owed rather than as an accomplishment to be earned.

I've taught mothers--both were 8th graders. One was a diligent student who wanted to do her best so she could have a shot at raising her child well (I don't know where dad was). The other spent her time at school telling the other girls how best to perform oral sex so as to satisfy their boyfriends (her own mother worked nights so she could raise the grandchild while the mother/student was at school). The point here is there's a good way and a bad way to deal with being such a young parent--one way is to work hard, the other is to treat the situation as one in which everyone can owe you. Guess which one I support.

And it isn't giving a girl a pass on her education because she got pregnant.

Here We Go Again

For the life of me I can't imagine what this teacher was thinking. Exchanging naked pictures with a 14-year-old boy? "Ew" and "gross" don't quite capture the moment, do they?

School Districts' Challenging NCLB

The Volokh Conspiracy has information on a 6th Circuit ruling in favor of school districts.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Middle School Is Da Bomb!

From Florida:

Residents near a local middle school said they find it hard to believe that no one knew about the World War II bombing range the school was built on.

The Army Corps of Engineers detonated 400 pounds of explosives found on the school property on Saturday.

"We were able to explode and render safe 49 23-pound bombs," Mike Fulford of the Army Corps Of Engineers said.

Lots of video at the link above.

Operation Arkansas and the Little Rock 9

I'm conflicted about Eisenhower's sending the 101st Airborne to Little Rock to enforce racial integration at Little Rock Central High School. I'm hard-pressed to find a legal justification for sending the army into US cities, barring natural disaster, of course. Is "the ends justify the means" the only legitimate justification here?

I don't object to the outcome. Far from it--it would have been better for all concerned if this response had never, ever, been needed in the first place. But using the army to enforce the law? I'm going to paraphrase/steal the following from a tv show I watch:

The military is used to fight the enemies of the state. Police are used to protect the citizens of the state. When the military is used as a police force, it's very easy for citizens to become the enemies of the state. That leads to tyranny.

Was the army the only federal force big enough to take on the forces arrayed in Arkansas? Was this potential tyranny justified by the tyranny already in place, that which kept black students from attending the local high school?

What a mess.

To commemorate 50 years of integration, the army has a slideshow of what was called Operation Arkansas. It's fairly innocuous, and doesn't show the same pictures of hatred that we've all seen in history books and documentaries. What caught my eye, though, was the title of slide #11--evidence of the potential for tyranny of which I spoke.

I'm glad this is America, where it's only potential.

Update, 1/8/08: I was directed to the Eisenhower Archives, and reading the documents there one gets a sense of what it must have been like in those turbulent days.

The legal justification can be found in the document called Press Release Proclamation 3204. Page 2 shows the relevant law citations. (Other sources indicate these laws were passed in 1861, another turbulent time in American history.)

The moral justification can be found in the document called Telegraph Mann To President 9 24 57.

Based only on reading Mayor Mann's telegraphs to President Eisenhower, I've come to the conclusion that the mayor was a brave and noble man. President Eisenhower's correspondence shows great poise and wisdom. We are lucky to have had such men in that time.

The communication between "the parents of nine Negro children enrolled at Little Rock Central High School" and the President should be enough to renew anyone's faith in our system of laws and governance.

Update, 1/19/09: It looks like the documents linked above can now be found here.

It's That Time Of Year Again...

...the time when break is over and school kicks back into gear. We have one more week, then finals.

While I have pretty much already taught all the academic material I'm going to teach this semester, there is still one more lesson for me to teach--I have to give out 'thank you' notes to those students who gave me Christmas gifts. I refer you to this post from two years ago.

Democrat Candidates and the Surge

I didn't watch the debates last night--couldn't care less, really, as I know who I support and who I don't. Everything I've read today, though, says Gibson was a good moderator.

I enjoyed this one post on the topic, though:

Democratic Candidates Squirm to the Iraqi Surge Dance


You've got to love the way that question was phrased.
ABC News commentator Charles Gibson gave the Democratic presidential candidates a thorough tongue lashing over their (wrong) stands on the Iraq War and in particular on their continual insistence that the troop surge had not worked. ABC started the segment with a video clip showing the remarkable success of the Bush troop surge.

The democrats still couldn't admit it even though the facts were just laid out in front of them.


I must admit, the video was pretty damning.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Internet Access "For The Children"

Samizdata, a UK-based libertarian site, has about as clear an exposition of my small government principles as I've ever heard/seen expounded:

I am prepared to believe that there may be some things (though not many of them) that are of such public benefit that they should be provided at the general expense. That is not to say that I think that if something is good it should be compulsory. Let alone that if it sounds like a good, that is justification for its being compulsory.

But when you are dealing with the state, "free" does not mean 'free as in free speech', nor does it mean 'free as in free beer'. It means 'compulsory'.


So what is being suggested in Britain? Why, that every child be provided internet access! With national health care, everyone pays for least-common-denominator coverage through taxes. What's being proposed regarding the internet is a little more honest:

Parents could be required to provide their children with high-speed internet access under plans being drawn up by ministers in partnership with some of the country's leading IT firms.

It's "for the children", so it must be good.

When a socialist government says you must have something, then you must. There is no freedom under such a government.

How To Study

Via CastingOutNines I came to this post on how to study. Good stuff, especially for you college-student-wannabes (or even you current college students!). Listed below are some things to avoid:

Bad Habit #1: Studying Without a Plan
Bad Habit #2: Skipping Classes
Bad Habit #3: Using Rote Review
Bad Habit #4: Studying After Midnight
Bad Habit #5: Not Taking Notes on Your Reading

The week after next is finals week at my school. Here are the two rules by which I lived during finals when I was an undergraduate:

Well rested, well tested.
Study too long, you're wrong.

The first of those is intuitively obvious to the most casual observer, but the second needs a brief explanation. The second assumes that the purpose of studying is to review material you had previously learned, not to learn new material. If you're trying to learn new material while studying for a final, you've probably already lost that battle. Make sure you know, extremely well, what you've already learned. Eat, sleep, study. Don't overburden your mind. Relax as much as you can.

Do well.